City Guide: Barcelona – The Dreamlike Catalonian Capital

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Barcelona, the Catalan capital, is one of the best-loved tourist hotspots in the world. With its beautiful architecture, wealth of fun activities, and focus on great food, it’s no wonder this city keeps visitors coming back again and again. For a proper taste of authentic Catalan life, you can’t do better than diving into everything that this modern city with its charming old world aesthetic has to offer. We’ve rounded up some of the best things to see, do, and eat during your visit to get you started.

What to See

Every corner of Barcelona has something beautiful for you to see, but these are the things you definitely won’t want to miss.

Modernist Architecture

Barcelona - Park Guell, Spain

Barcelona was the birthplace of Catalan modernism and stunning examples of 19th and early 20th-century modernist architecture can be seen all over the city. Antoni Gaudí was one of Barcelona’s finest modernist architects and you can see Casa Batllo and La Pedrera as outstanding examples of his work. For a more in-depth look at the style, check out the Modernisme Route website for details on where to find the best examples of modernist buildings.

Santa Maria del Mar

The church of Santa Maria del Mar is often called one of the most beautiful Gothic churches ever built. Barcelona’s cathedral was the centre of the old city, but this church became the main building in the newer part next to the sea. Santa Maria del Mar was built over an incredible 55 years, a huge feat considering that it usually took over a century to construct something like this at that time. This short building time means that it is a rare example of pure Gothic architecture, without the influence of changing fashions. It is beautiful inside and out, so be sure to go in and look around.

Park Guell

View of the city from Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain

Park Guell is one of the greatest examples of Gaudí’s architecture, planning and design. Even if you don’t know anything about modernism, you can’t fail to be blown away by this stunning park, here architectural structures appear to be majestic extensions of nature. Pillars sweep upwards like trees, archways resemble the rugged openings of caves, and the fountains are guarded by fierce lizards glittering with mosaic scales. Walk all the way up to the top to enjoy the panoramic views.

What to Do

From vibrant café bars to fascinating museums, you’ll never have a dull moment with all the things there are to do in Barcelona.

Explore the Museums

The Museu museum Picasso's cloister in Barcelona

Barcelona has several museums to cater to all tastes and interests – and even better many have free entry after 3pm on Sundays. The Picasso Museum is perfect for art lovers and is the go-to place if you’re interested in his early works. If you love discovering the history of a city, the Museum of History of Barcelona is amazing, with archaeological digs and medieval landmarks. If you’re interested in seeing the delights of the 18th-century city before it was destroyed in the 1714 siege, the Born Cultural Centre gives you a glimpse into what sits beneath modern Barcelona. For something a little more contemporary, check out the exhibitions at the CCCB.

Stroll Around Barri Gotic

One of the best ways to discover hidden treasures in a new city is to stroll around older parts of the city on foot. Barri Gotic is the place to do this in Barcelona, with secluded medieval alleyways and beautiful buildings around every corner. There are a wealth of charming patios and squares, where you can grab a coffee outside and watch the hustle and bustle of the city. A very charming way to while away a few hours.

Bridge at Carrer del Bisbe in Barri Gotic, Barcelona. Spain

See an Outdoor Film

If you’ve ever fancied the romantic idea of watching a movie outdoors under the stars, then one of Barcelona’s film festivals is just the thing for you. Cinema Lliure is one of the best, showing independent films on Sant Sebastià beach on Thursday and Sunday evenings. The CCCB also has a festival called Gandules, where you can watch short films for free in the courtyard. Just grab your popcorn and a glass of wine, and relax.

What to Eat

Spanish food is famous worldwide for its delicious flavours and rustic origins, so here are a few dishes you just can’t leave Barcelona without trying.

Paella

seafood paella barcelona

Okay, we know it’s a cliché, but you seriously have to have proper Spanish paella when you visit Barcelona. Paella is considered a special treat in Spain and you should make like the locals and have this heavy dish for lunch. Because Barcelona is so close to the sea, you’ll find this tasty dish in plenty of restaurants with beautiful, fresh seafood within.

Pa amb Tomaquet

When the produce is this good, the simple things are always the best and that’s definitely true of pa amb tomaquet. It is basically just bread rubbed with garlic and tomato, then seasoned with olive oil, salt, and pepper. It’s often served as an accompaniment to meals and it is just heavenly. Layer it up with a few slices of cheese and wonder how you’ve ever eaten anything else.

Pa amb Tomaquet, garlic and tomato bread

Mato

You can’t visit Barcelona, or anywhere in Catalonia, without trying the soft cheese, mató. It is a sweet and spreadable goats cheese and is usually eaten as a dessert topped with honey and walnuts. Try it anywhere where you see it on the menu, it’s reliably delicious and not as common as it should be.

If this guide has got you excited to discover this wonderful city, why not book your place on one of Cruise1st UK’s cruises that visit Barcelona? You can browse our range of cruises online or call our friendly team on 0808 159 9410. 

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Barcelona in One Night
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Barcelona in One Night
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The Catalan capital, Barcelona, is one of the world’s most popular tourist hotspots – charming visitors for hundreds of years. With an array of beautiful, relaxed criss-crossing streets running through the city – offering an authentic taste of Catalan life; the city manages to retain a charming old world aesthetic whilst remaining decidedly modern.
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Belinda Goodman

Cruise 1st veteran Belinda has a passion for travel, especially cruising. She has worked in the travel industry for over 20 years, including a 3-year stint working on cruise ships as a croupier. Belinda regularly writes for the Cruise 1st blog, with a focus on company news and advice for first-time cruise travellers.

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